Highlights from the 2014 hurricane season

The Atlantic hurricane season will officially end November 30, and will be remembered as a relatively quiet season as was predicted.  Still, the season afforded NOAA scientists with opportunities to produce new forecast products, showcase successful modeling advancements, and conduct research to benefit future forecasts.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 9.06.40 AM Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 9.06.29 AM

Despite the quiet Atlantic season, NOAA, and especially HRD, had an extremely productive research year.  With the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, they conducted 34 P3 and 15 G-IV missions in the Atlantic, East Pacific and Central Pacific Oceans.  The data collected in Hurricanes Arthur, Bertha, and Cristobal will be useful in better understanding the problem of hurricane intensification in storms that are undergoing shear, something previously thought to be relatively uncommon.  Extensive oceanographic data were collected in Hurricanes Edouard and Ana that will help us to understand how the ocean fuels hurricanes and how the hurricane in turn impacts the ocean.  One highlight was the first-ever successful release of the Coyote, an unmanned aircraft system released from hurricane hunter manned aircraft, to collect wind, temperature and other weather data in hurricane force winds during Edouard.  The Coyote flew into areas of the storm that would be too dangerous for manned aircraft, sampling weather in and around the eyewall at very low altitudes.

NOAA also participated 11 missions with the NOAA Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology (SHOUT) and NASA Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) Global Hawk aircraft, and with the Office of Naval Research and NASA HS3 high-altitude manned WB-57 aircraft.  These missions provided valuable real-time data that was used by forecasters at the National Hurricane Center and will also be studied by NOAA, NASA, and university researchers to help advance the prediction and understanding of tropical cyclone track, intensity change, and storm structure.  The data will be used to assess the impact of the data on forecast models and design aircraft sampling strategies that optimize model forecasts of tropical cyclone track and intensity.  These strategies will be used during NOAA SHOUT Global Hawk missions that are planned for the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season.   The WB-57 missions sampled Hurricane Gonzalo’s upper-level outflow with a prototype dropsonde system, its 3-dimensional wind field with a dual-frequency radar, and its surface winds with an advanced microwave radiometer.  These observations will help advance the understanding and modeling of the rarely sampled hurricane upper-level outflow layer.